If you're reading this, then you may have read my previous breakdowns -- like the one I did on Vic Beasley, who I named the top edge rusher in this draft class. What if I told you (30 for 30 music begin playing in the background) that there was another edger rusher in this draft class who was taller (6'4), heavier (269 pounds), almost just as fast (4.56 forty time) and could jump even higher (42-inch vertical)?
Well there is, and his name is Alvin "Bud" Dupree.
The Kentucky outside linebacker/defensive end is the fourth edge rusher that I chose to break down in this series. For the purposes of this piece I went over to Draft Breakdown to watch Dupree play against Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Missouri and Louisville. Those represented the third, fifth, eighth, ninth and 12th games of Kentucky's 2014 season.
(As an aside, seeing all these edge rushers with single-digit numbers is making my eyes glaze over. Look, I had one of the ugliest numbers for a modern day, big-time college defensive end with "64" while my fellow starting defensive end Leonard Little wore number "1," so maybe I'm just hating because of that, but these big dudes need to get back to wearing big numbers! Some "90s," or hell at least some "55s," or something like that. Seeing a dude of Dupree's size wearing the number "2" is disconcerting, I tell ya!)
(Just had to get that off my chest.)
Now, "Bud" Dupree is a bit of an enigma to me after watching him in five games and then seeing his combine numbers. On tape, he is a pretty good player with decent but inconsistent technique who flashes some big play ability in just about every game. Those combine numbers tell me I should be seeing a much more dominant player on the field, however.
Whereas he was only a hair behind Beasley in terms of 40-yard speed, they were miles apart when it came to beating offensive tackles with a speed rush. In fact, one and a half of the three sacks Dupree got in the games I watched came when he was simply unblocked. Several of his tackles for a loss and pressures also came when nobody on the opposing offensive line touched him.
Dupree was unblocked more often than I can remember for any top edge rusher in the last few years. At times it was like he had some kind of invisibility cloak and the opposing teams literally just couldn't see him. I'm not hating on the kid, but it is concerning when a guy has the kind of physical tools that Dupree has and "only" comes home with 7.5 sacks all season, especially when you know at least one and a half of those sacks were gimmes.
So what gives?
Well, some of it is scheme related. Dupree dropped into coverage a lot in Kentucky's defense. The good news is that he looked very natural doing so. The bad news is that every drop into coverage was a missed opportunity to rush the passer. Even then, Kentucky made Dupree stunt (shorter step) or loop (longer step) inside a good percentage of the time, rather than allow him to rush the offensive tackle one-on-one or attempt pass-rush games.
Why did the Kentucky coaching staff do this? Hell if I know.
I mean, their defense was pretty good and all, but to me they could have gotten a lot more production out of Dupree by allowing him to use his speed on the edge to rush the passer, rather than sending him inside so much. In fairness to the coaches, several of those gimme sacks came on those inside stunts or loops (like this one against Florida). I just don't feel that the few times they worked justify the many, many times they made him go inside.
When Dupree was allowed to rush on his own I definitely saw some good things at times. Its the "at times" part that worries me, however. There is a saying that "when you know better, you do better," and I couldn't help but think of that saying when I was watching Dupree's film.
On one play, you see a guy who gets off at the snap of the ball, uses his hands well, knocks the offensive tackle's hands off of him, turns his hips toward the quarterback and finishes with a rip. I'm talking about textbook technique.
The next play you see a guy with average get-off who doesn't use his hands at all and keeps his hips parallel with the line of scrimmage with no rip. The guy in the previous paragraph was the guy getting heat on the quarterback. The guy in this paragraph? Oh, he got pushed past the level of the quarterback damn near every time.
It wasn't just his pass rush technique that was inconsistent, either. One play, he's jacking up a tight end in the backfield, setting the edge and making tackles for losses. The next play he's the one getting jacked up, and he peeks inside while the ball carrier bounces the ball outside. Sometimes, Dupree would chase down plays from the backside. Other times he wouldn't quite make it there.
It was really crazy like that.
Now, I don't want to make it seem like Dupree is literally a 50/50 proposition. He made more good plays than bad ones, without a doubt. My thing is, when you are looking for a guy to be a first-round pick, you expect that guy to be dominant all the time. Even with poor technique I would expect an athlete of Dupree's caliber to make a lot more plays than what I saw. Better yet, a guy of his caliber would normally force opposing offenses to account for him damn near every play like they did against Beasley. With Dupree, nearly every team let their left or right tackle handle him one-on-one all game. That tells me opposing offenses just didn't fear him.
Dupree could turn it on in spurts for sure, but elite players are supposed to be on all the time. Even if they aren't the one literally making the play, they find ways to make an impact so the play can be made. And let me clarify, I'm not talking about a lack of effort from Dupree. I'm talking about finding a way to make a play early and often, and especially late in games when your team needs you the most. I just didn't see quite enough of that from Dupree in five games.
This is where a defensive-minded coach's hubris can kick in.
I can promise you there are teams that saw Dupree's combine performance, watched his film and came to the conclusion that all he needs to be dominant is a coach to stay on his ass all the time about doing the little things consistently. I admit, that as an old defensive line guy who did a little coaching too, it is very tempting to believe that the right coach can fix all that ails a player and turn him into a monster. I'm just not sure that's the case with Dupree.
The fact that I saw him use good technique at times tells me a few things. One, Dupree's problem isn't lack of coaching. Somebody somewhere along the line taught him how to make good pass rush moves and also taught him how to play with good technique against the run. What they evidently couldn't do was get him to do those things all the time. In my experience, trying to coach consistency can be one of the hardest and most frustrating parts of coaching. I imagine Dupree drove his defensive line coach crazy.
I can't say for sure why some guys have this mental block that won't allow them to use the same technique over and over without flinching, but I do know that kind of thing happens on the regular. It seems incomprehensible to me because I always figured that if a guy had some success with a certain technique, they would keep right on doing it until they stopped being successful. I think back to guys like Reggie White or Bruce Smith or Warren Sapp, and then I think of the moves they made to get all those sacks they racked up during their hall of fame carriers. None of those three all-time great defensive linemen were ever lazy with their hands, nor were they inconsistent with their technique.
Dupree obviously doesn't have to measure up to hall of famers just to be a first-round pick, because no college player really can, but at the same time, teams select players in the first round because they believe those guys have the potential to be long-time starters at a high level, if not hall of famers. For Dupree to fit that mold, teams will have to decide that they can fix his consistency issues and maximize that untapped potential.
I get it. If it works out Dupree has been blessed with the kind of physical tools that could elevate him to Pro Bowl or All-Pro status with just a little bit of polish on his technique. At the same time, I do get this kind of "buyer beware" vibe while watching him. Not because of his effort, which was actually excellent nearly all the time. In fact, one of the most impressive things about Dupree was his hustle running to the ball. He reminded me of Anthony Barr from last year in that regard.
But I see a guy who should be more explosive than he is, who should be more focused on the details of his technique, who should just be ... better. And that always worries me.
So put me down as someone who likes Dupree a lot and is very impressed with his physical ability, but a little underwhelmed by his tape. I would rather take him in the second round if possible, because I think he is somewhat of a risk.
It is easy to say where you want a guy before other guys start coming off the board, of course. If you have a pick late in the first round or early in the second round and there's a run on edge rushers before you're up, then you might just have to put that card in for Dupree or try to move up to get him.
Dupree is going to be a bit of a risk no matter where he gets drafted, but the lower he's selected, the more the front office that takes him will look smart if he pans out. I do think he will be a good player, I'm just not sold on him being a great one in the league.